Blockchain DAppsEthereum

Ethereum Sees Growing China Interest, Focuses on Four Major R&D Areas

Leading players in the Ethereum ecosystem spent time recently in China, visiting Hong Kong and Shanghai, where the Blockchain 2.0 protocol is gaining more interest.  Ethereum founder Vitalik Butterin on Sunday updated the community regarding the trip, and the significant research and development directions in the Ethereum ecosystem.

The ecosystem’s delegation to China was important strategically as the Ethereum Foundation nailed down capital there to boost its limited remaining funds. Butterin and his team formed a major partnership with Chinese automotive giant Wanxiang Group, which included the purchase of 416,000 ETH for $500,000, a non-profit blockchain research institute, and potentially a $50 million blockchain technology technology fund.

Butterin noted:

Over the last five days, myself, our executive director Ming Chan, and several others from the Ethereum team and Ethereum-based projects and businesses including Maker, Dfinity and Consensys have been visiting China and Hong Kong, where there have been a series of back-to-back conferences and events most notably including the Blockchain Workshop in Hong Kong on Oct 11-13 and the “First Global Blockchain Summit” in Shanghai organized by our friends at Wanxiang on Oct 15-16, while at the same time continuing to work on our usual tasks of research, development, planning DEVcon and administrative matters.

According to the Ethereum founder, since he travelled to China last year, the interest in blockchain technology has transformed from only bitcoin companies and enthusiasts to more mainstream organizations and brick and mortar companies:

This was a fairly large event, perhaps the largest since the Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing which was my first experience with China over one year before and, as has happened over the same period in the West, the audience has transformed to be more mainstream: rather than just employees of Bitcoin-specific (or even crypto-specific) projects attending, we saw representatives from major banks, government officials, Intel, Huawei and others from traditional industry there.

Blockchain Workshop event in Hong Kong

Despite travelling, the Ethereum team was able to spend time on development and identified four key R&D areas, namely zk-SNARK integration, the Casper algorithm, network scalability and Ethereum Virtual Machine upgrades.

zk-SNARK integration
The integration of zh-SNARKs, or non-interactive zero-knowledge proofs, will permit Ethereum to verify succinct zero-knowledge proofs and generate verification keys off-chain. The goal of this development track is to implement ultra-private coin mixing, privacy-preserving reputation and two-party financial contracts. The longer term goal will be an implementation of Hawk on Ethereum. Hawk is a decentralized smart contract system that does not store financial transactions openly on the blockchain, thus retaining transactional privacy from the public’s view. Implementation of Hawk might make Ethereum more commercially attractive as a platform for private banking.

Casper is Ethereum’s proof of stake algorithm under development by Vlad Zamfir and Lucius Greg Meredith. The major components include by-block consensus rather than by-chain consensus, and the concept of “economic consensus by bet” as “a way of approaching de-facto finality with exponential speed rather than linear speed” as in the case of Proof of Work. The goal is to combine block time reduction, finality and much lower energy consumption.

The Ethereum Foundation hopes to increase the network’s potential transaction throughput from 10-20 transactions per second to over 100,000 transactions per second. The basic concepts behind scaling have been established by the project team for more than six months. What remains to be seen is whether they can make optimal tradeoffs while preserving as much of the functionality of Ethereum 1.0 as possible. Their key goal is to develop Ethereum 2.0 as a superset of Ethereum 1.0.

Ethereum Virtual Machine upgrades
Ethereum developers are also researching upgrades the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). According to Butterin, developer Martin Becze is examining WebAssembly for upgrading the EVM. WebAssembly, an efficient binary format for web applications, was launched in June 2015 by Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and members of the WebKit. Like JavaScript was for the Web, WebAssembly’s proponents hope to create a new standard that is useful for mobile and Internet of Things systems. For Ethereum, the advantage of WebAssembly is that it shares many properties with the EVM, specifically the need to run untrusted code, the need for code to be very small, and the need to have multiple compatible implementations.

In terms of the Ethereum’s next live release, dubbed Homestead, the project is apparently almost there. The internal target has been to launch Homestead when the Frontier network, the first live release, has successfully run without major difficulties for four weeks. Butterin indicated that the Foundation would announce a more detailed strategy for Homestead soon as the next live release is almost ready.

Journalist, policy analyst, and evangelist of new, disruptive technologies including big data analytics, Internet of Things, and cryptocurrencies. Internet industry veteran with regional c-suite experience, and journalist credentials earned at, Internet World magazine, and Mecklermedia Corporation.
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